Science and Honest Budgeting Winby Editors
The Daily Astorian, January 30, 2007
Court nixes Sen. Larry Craig's whack job on the Fish Passage Center
Science and honest federal budgeting both were on the winning side last week when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an effort to kill the Fish Passage Center (FPC) that counts Columbia River salmon.
The court said Bonneville Power Administration, the funding agency for the FPC, acted in ways that were "arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law" when it bowed to political pressure last year by trying to yank FPC funding and hand it over to corporate contractors.
Someone not familiar with Northwest salmon issues might have a hard time imagining why a modest office that counts fish would land in such controversy. The problem is they do their job too well.
Unbiased arithmetic and straightforward analysis of the numbers show that the Columbia River system has been seriously degraded as habitat for migrating salmon and steelhead. In 2005, data from the FPC was used in support of a federal trial court decision that required BPA to release water in aid of downstream migration instead of sending it through electricity turbines.
This was enough to send Idaho's irritable U.S. Sen. Larry Craig reaching for a favorite sneaky legislative trick. Taking advantage of the Senate's ridiculously lax budget rules, the powerful senator personally subverted the deliberative process by attaching his own agenda to an appropriations bill, instructing BPA to cut off funds for the pesky fish counters in congressional committee report language.
In this sense, BPA was not so much capricious as gutless in acquiescing to the senator's bullying tactics. A quiet office merely doing its job was the victim. It is a dangerous sign when a lone elected official from one of the nation's most conservative states can warp honest science that gets in the way of industrial and agricultural misuse of the Columbia.
Craig's office last week expressed its hurt feelings that the senator's plans failed. The Senate must take steps to insure all its members decide such issues, not permitting one senator to impose his will simply by attaching a note to an appropriations bill.
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